This post is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
He was awake by 6am that morning. He had gone for a jog, shaved, showered and packed his bags. By 8am, he was ready to check-out and head for his appointment at The Dog and The Duck.
He picked up the case file that Lisa Dean of the NCADV had passed to him and flipped through the documents for the umpteenth time. He was excited about this meeting because he was amazed at the speed of recovery of this subject, not just physically but mentally as well. Ten months was awfully short to recover from what she had gone through. Hell, the last subject that he had interviewed was still suffering from the after effects despite it being ten years ago. But what could he say, he’d grown up in a blissful family and he would never understand how each of them felt to have to go through all that they did. He could only sympathize but not empathise.
He took another look at the sweet smile in the photo and thought to himself, it didn’t hurt that she was so damn cute too. He quickly gave himself a slap and made a mental note that these were victims of domestic violence, not some girl that he could pick up from the bar.
She was up by 6am. She had been tossing and turning since 3am and finally gave up at 6am. She was out of sorts the entire morning, her usual organised routine of getting dressed was all over the place this morning. She was putting toothpaste on her toothbrush one minute, choosing her shoes the next, brushing her hair and then doing something else. Her systematic thoughts were mashed up like scrambled eggs this morning and what usually took her less than an hour on a regular morning, took her almost two today.
At 8am, she was finally ready and decided to make an early start to The Dog and The Duck. She could just go grab a cuppa tea first and prep herself for the meeting. Better to be early and prepared than late and flustered. It was an important day for her, the first step to her full recovery, according to Lisa.
It was one of those crazy busy New York mornings in October. The stuck-up faces and fast paces were some of the main reasons why he was glad his home was in California. He crossed the road and walked the two blocks as she had instructed him to, dodging the never-ending stream of women in their sky high stilettos and the yellow taxis who were going way too fast for their own good. It was 9:23am when he arrived at The Dog and The Duck, precisely 37 minutes earlier than their agreed meeting time, and he thought he would be earlier than her so that he could get a nice quiet spot first but there was no mistaking her – the almond-shaped eyes, the cute button nose, the small pout of her lips. She was truly more beautiful than her photo.
‘Samantha Alexandra Lee?’
Her thoughts were interrupted by a smooth, male voice. And the owner of that smooth, male voice did not disappoint. He was about 6 feet tall, with short black hair that was styled up, and a lean mean bod that even his baggy jacket could not hide. She smiled back at him, ‘Wesley Wong?’
He gave a curt nod and took the hand that she had put out to shake. He was amazed by the firm shake of her hand. Those small, soft hands seemed incapable of that firm grip on him yet they did.
‘Wes will do actually,’ he replied as he took the seat opposite her.
‘And Sam for me.’
Wes had strong hands, small slit eyes that exuded creativity and this genuine smile that guys of this age no longer showed, and Sam couldn’t help replying with her brightest smile.
The waitress was already at their table as Wes sat down.
They ordered drinks and exchanged small talk. Despite this being their first meeting, the atmosphere was unlike two people who had just met but more like two friends who were re-acquainted – comfortable but polite.
They sat in snug silence for a while as Sam stirred her tea, an action that was redundant as she drank her tea black, and Wes looked on at her from the corner of his eye.
Wes cleared his throat. ‘About today, I believe Lisa must have given you some background about the work that I do for the NCADV?’
Sam continued stirring and staring at her tea but gave a slight nod to indicate yes. She hurriedly added that Lisa did mention that she was not obligated to agree to do the filming if she felt uncomfortable about it.
‘Yes, Lisa did mention but I was really hoping that you would give me a chance to explain how I intend to go about it.’ Wes hoped he did not sound too desperate, even though he really was. Not desperate to get her story on film but desperate to want to get to know Sam better.
‘Go on.’ Sam said after pausing for a while, the sincerity in his voice touching a soft spot in her that she thought had died along with her heart when Colin Phil had almost killed her.
With Sam’s approval, Wes started explaining about the work that he was doing and what was expected from her. By the end of his pitch though, he could see that all the colour had drained from her. Her rosy cheeks were now paler than the milk froth on his half drunk café latte and the unmistaken frown creased on her forehead was a clear indication of her disapproval of his requirements. Yes, he thought to himself, having her take off all her clothes in front of a stranger was clearly intimidating, even if the focus would only be on the scars on her back.
‘I understand that you may be reluctant but think of the message that it would send across to thousands of other women who are too afraid to come out. We need to film your scars so that the audience knows that you are real and not just some model that we got from an agency.’ He paused, trying to determine if she was buying him.
‘The NCADV told me that you were strong and that you would do your best to help. My filming techniques will be purely artistic, nothing sleazy, I promise. We will also need you to be interviewed as we film, just to capture some of the essence of your story.’
She hesitated for another moment and asked, ‘when you say we, how many other people exactly are we talking about?’
‘The we is actually just me,’ Wes replied, glad that her main concern didn’t seem to be about baring herself to him. He added as an afterthought, ‘but if you feel more comfortable with more around, I would be happy to let you have a friend or two with you for support.’
‘That won’t be necessary, I don’t have that many close friends in New York and none of my other friends know what had happened to me.’
There was a moment of silence, ‘isn’t there anyone you can have by your side for support? Your family?’
Sam gave a soft sigh, ‘I grew up in California and worked there till a year ago when I got transferred to New York. Most of my friends are back home and have their own family and stuff so I never bothered them with my troubles, while my friends here are all from work which is hardly the place you want to air your dirty laundry. My aunt back in Cali who has been taking care of me is old and doesn’t need to have more to worry about either.’
Wes was speechless for words, like he had stepped on a land mine. He had no idea what to say or how to comfort her. He had no idea what to say to someone who had to go through so much mishap yet to survive it all alone in such a big city.
Noticing the awkward silence, Sam gave a huge grin. ‘You look worried. I hope I didn’t scare you and you don’t think that I’m some crazy psycho who’s off the grid. I just want to let you know that I’m ok to be in front of the camera. It’s just that it’s my first time doing so and I’m not exactly attractive so I hope I don’t irk whoever is watching.’
Wes smiled back, glad that Sam had taken the awkwardness out of him but was still speechless and grinning like a fool instead.
‘So, when shall we do this?’ Sam asked.
‘Well, I fly back to Cali this afternoon but I’ll be glad to fly in again just before Christmas. What do you say?’
‘We’re in a bit of a rush at work to get things sorted out before the Christmas / New Year break so I’m afraid I won’t be able to do the session till Christmas Eve. Then I’ll be clear till a couple of days after the New Year.’
‘I’m afraid I have another project to film over the New Year so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day seems like my best bet now too.’
Sam thought and asked, ‘wouldn’t you want to spend Christmas with your family?’
‘Nah, we’re an Asian family and Christmas’ not really our thing. And my friends won’t miss me just for this year.’ Except for Jennessa, who’s going to bug him about this the whole of next year if she knew, thought Wes to himself. Jennessa was his junior at school and had been on his tails since the day he went back to give his speech as an alumni during her convocation. She had found her way to him through his friends and had permanently made herself a part of their group.
They sat in silence as the morning rush in the The Dog and The Duck started to clear and the lunch crowd slowly streamed in. Wes couldn’t help sneaking a peek at her through the corner of his eye. He enjoyed the sun shining on her smooth, fair skin. The light blush of her cheeks, the soft pout of her lips. It had been a while since he had felt this way, on second thoughts he had never felt this way ever. The zen-ness of the silence yet the speed at which his heart thumped was consoling yet scaring him.
Sam was enjoying the soft October sun on her face and enjoying the comfortable silence. She could feel him taking a peek at her through the corner of his eye. The peek soon became a stare and she could not help grinning to herself. It had been a while since she had had such attention and she couldn’t help but notice how much she had missed being intimate with anyone.
Their silence was broken by the waitress who came over to get a second round of drinks. Sam and Wes noticed the queue that was extending outside, and their extended stay which had clearly become unwelcome unless they ordered another round of food and drink, and realised that this was their cue to leave.
They stood in the middle of the bustling city, unwilling to part yet not sure what other excuse they would have to extend each other’s company.
Wes picked up his courage, ‘my flight’s not till 6pm and I still have quite a few hours to kill. Is there anywhere that a New Yorker like you can interest me in?’
‘I’m not really much of a New Yorker myself. With work and all, I have barely been anywhere other than home, work and the clinic.’ A shadow came over Sam despite the bright sunny day. She hadn’t thought about how pathetic her life had been this last year until now.
Wes suddenly felt sad and was determined to bring sunshine back to Sam.
‘I heard Coney Island is a must go when in New York! If you’re free this afternoon, would you like to be a tourist in New York with me today?’
Wes did not wait for Sam to reply. He did not want to wait for her reply lest he be rejected. He picked up her hand and in full speed, ran as fast as he could towards the subway.
Sam was shocked. Everything happened so fast. She could not believe that she was going on an adventure with a stranger that she had barely known for a couple of hours. Not that she wanted to reject his request at this date, no, adventure. It was not a date, it can’t be. But she was glad that he did not give her a chance to say no because she probably would have, not because she didn’t want to go but because she was afraid that she would fall in love again.